Volunteers with Inner City Outings bring kids to nature
Sierra Club Inner City Outings (ICO) is a community-outreach program that provides opportunities for urban
youth and adults to explore, enjoy, and protect
the natural world. ICO's mission is to promote appreciation for the environment and is focused on enabling youth to explore the outdoors - to enhance their awareness
of their surroundings and themselves. In the Bay Chapter we have two ICO sections, Backpacking and Rafting. The articles on this page give a sampling of the
volunteer experience in each.
ICO Backpacking -
who learns the most, the kids or the volunteers?
Two of ICO Backpacking's most active leaders, Jim Washington and Chuck Ford, led a group of eight students from the Tamiscal High School Team
outdoor-education program on a snow camping trip during the first week of March. Staying true to the mission of ICO, the group enjoyed a fun-filled snowshoe trek near Carson Pass.
ICO supplies gear and resources for Team expeditions as well as training and leaders. For this trip, Team was able to tap into ICO's specialized snow equipment,
including winter sleeping bags, snowshoes, and insulated boots.
Chuck Ford learned to lead youth trips from his involvement with ICO and now boasts 15 years of leading trips with Team and exposing its students to the
wonders of the outdoors. Chuck enjoys having other experienced ICO leaders (over the years about 30 different leaders have participated) come along and bring new insight
Team is a year-long full-time experiential public-school program for high-school juniors in Marin County that features extended backpack trips,
ropes-course leadership, a wilderness-medicine course, and community service along with the standard academic fare. The program is an outgrowth of Chuck's earlier
ICO involvement. Over 350 students have participated. Chuck says, "Without ICO's support, the program would not exist. Without ICO, I would not have become
a teacher. It was my experience getting kids out into the wilderness that inspired me to become an educator."
The trip began with everyone lending a hand to get all the gear loaded and on the road. As with every ICO trip, everyone helps - it's an essential part of the
experience. The group spent the first night sleeping outside under a full moon at the Meiss Lake Trailhead Sno-Park. Everyone was up early the following day to prepare for the
mile trek to the other side of the tree-covered ridge.
The group worked together to pound out a trail through the fresh powder. The day was clear and sunny, perfect weather for snow-tromping. At the
destination everyone joined in compacting the snow for a flat, stable campsite.
After setting up the tents, the group constructed a kitchen and dining area - digging out a large trench and then stomping around to compact the snow for the
table and benches - those snowshoes definitely came in handy! The group later added cabinets and shelves to store the grub overnight. The benches may have been a
bit too cold for Martha Stewart's taste, but were perfect for the Teamies, who covered them with
After all the hard work the group settled in to share stories - always an integral part of any great outdoor adventure. Jim shared his heartfelt story of his brother
and explained the meaning of the American flag he carries with him on every trip. It's the flag his parents received when his brother, a devoted father and California
Highway Patrol officer, was killed in the line of duty. Jim brings his flag on all his trips to keep his brother close to his heart and share his life with others.
Lunch was served in the "best ever" dining room with a view - and then it was back to work.
The group dug a large snow cave - big enough for four to sleep sheltered from the elements; the rest braved the open sky again. The rest of the evening
involved enjoying the colorful sunset, the bright colors a stark contrast to the snow-swept camp. More fiery colors emanated from the "fireplace" in the center of the dining
table. Chef du jour Chuck's fantastic meal was the perfect ending to an eventful day.
On Sunday morning, the moon stuck around after sunrise, and Chuck slowly woke up the rest of the group for breakfast. Some dared to try Chuck's breakfast
of champions, aka Spam, but Jim seemed to be the only one who appreciated the canned delight. Everyone helped disassemble the camp and collapse the dining and
kitchen area back down to resemble what it looked like when they arrived yesterday - so that others can enjoy the seemingly untouched wilderness. The group geared up
and trekked back to the parking lot, taking pictures and stopping to identify trees along the way.
After loading up the cars, the group headed to Grover Hot Springs to warm up for the trip home. While the group was enjoying the 102º pool, they spotted a lone
bobcat just above the entrance to the hot springs. There is nothing like an encounter with such a wild creature - certainly not something we see everyday!
Such trips leave lasting impressions on both young minds and adult volunteers; memories are made, and life lessons learned. Excursions in the outdoors
have a way of inspiring people and giving students and youth an opportunity to see not only what's out there, but also what's within. Wilderness expeditions
promote and teach skills that help youth build a foundation for leadership as well as enhance their connection to the natural world, priming them for success through
all of life's adventures - in and out of the wilderness.
ICO has exciting spring and summer trips planned and always welcomes new volunteers. For more information on getting
involved in or contributing to ICO, visit the ICO
And Team? The next adventure was to be a 10-day trip to Joshua Tree at the end of March that will include wilderness
backpacking and a day removing invasive mustard plants that are posing a grave wildfire threat to the park.
San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler